Millions in Ukip funding has been left hanging by a thread after populist Italian Five Star MEPs voted to leave the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) faction and planned to join their former adversaries in the pro-EU alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
Nigel Farage, who is still Chair of the EFDD, lashed out at Five Star leader Beppe Grillo, saying he had “joined the establishment.”
But the Five Star MEPs were later rejected by the centrists in the ALDE, leaving their future uncertain.
Now, Ukip’s finances are in a vulnerable position. To qualify for EU funding, a group in the European parliament must have at least 20 members drawn from at least six countries.
However, the surprise departure of 17 Five Star MEPs from the EFDD has left the group with just seven members from six countries outside of Britain. And 20 of the EFDD’s current 27 members are from Ukip. One more departure and the group would collapse.
At stake is financing to the tune of €80,000 (£69,898.87) per MEP, amounting to a boon of around £1.4 million a year to Ukip.
The party already has significant money problems and this threat to funding will be another unwelcome headache for party leader Paul Nuttall.
Nigel Farage raged at the Five Star leader, saying: “Beppe Grillo will now join the Euro-fanatic establishment of ALDE which supports TTIP, mass immigration and an EU Army, but oppose direct democracy.
“Five Star have joined the EU establishment.”
Ukip said Five Star was “free to choose to stay or quit a political relationship”.
Mr Grillo, regarded as a former ally of Mr Farage’s, called the online vote in a surprise move on Sunday, perhaps foreseeing that the inevitable loss of British MEPs from EFDD would end the cash flow to Five Star MEPs.
Explaining the move in a blog post, he said: “Recent events in Europe, such as Brexit, have led us to reconsider the nature of the EFDD group.
“With the extraordinary success of the leave campaign, Ukip achieved its political objective: to leave the European Union.
“Let's discuss the concrete facts: Farage has already abandoned the leadership of his party and British MEPs will leave the European parliament in the next legislature.
“Until then, our British colleagues will be focused on developing the choices that will determine the UK's political future.”
The decision of populist Five Star to apply to join the ALDE came as a surprise to some. Led by Guy Verhofstadt, it is a liberal group which supports closer European ties.
These differences were also acknowledged by the ALDE. In Mr Verhofstadt’s statement rejecting the Five Star application, he said: “I have come to the conclusion that there are not enough guarantees to push forward a common agenda to reform Europe.
"There is insufficient common ground to proceed with the request of the Five Star Movement to join the ALDE Group. There remain fundamental differences on key European issues.
"However, on issues of shared interest, such as the environment, transparency and direct democracy, the ALDE Group and the Five Star Movement will continue to work closely together.”
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